Back in December of last year I wrote a post praising Flickr mostly because they had a new mobile app that I really liked.
Fast forward six months and WOW. What a screwed up mess. Two days ago Flickr made even more changes. Most of the photographers I polled on Twitter weren’t happy about them – at all. About 70% were unhappy, 20% happy and the rest “meh.” And to add fuel to that fire, those chiming in on Flickr’s own forum aren’t happy. (NOTE: This link may be bad by the time you read it since Flickr has a habit of banning anyone who says something bad about Flickr on their site. That is their right and I don’t fault them for it but just wanted you to know in case the link is broken why it might be.)
Essentially, Flickr tried to copy 500px and the new G+ photo theme and at first blush, they did a good job. The front page is pretty – if a little disorganized. The photo stream is attractive but organization is a mess here too. The single page photo view is completely FUBAR. In any event, the changes to the interface are pretty much just skin deep. A few clicks in and it seems that the old Flickr is there lurking.
On the account side, Flickr now offers free accounts 1TB free storage – supported by ads. This is causing many who held a pro account to wonder why they should pay since there was so much new free storage. But there are problems with this free account. There is 1TB free storage, but in my tests Flickr throttles the upload process so much that it would take a long time to actually gain the advantage of the free 1TB storage. The 1TB storage needs to be accompanied by great upload service or sync and so far, that is not happening.
I still think this might be a good deal for casual users who want a free account and don’t mind the slow uploads and lots of ads. There is a price to free no matter who you use. But this is only half the story.
Now as for the pros and the pro accounts (not necessarily the same thing) there are deeper problems.
First the asinine comments from the new CEO of Yahoo, Marissa Mayer, who actually said the following
Theres no such thing as Flickr Pro today because [with so many people taking photographs] theres really no such thing as professional photographers anymore.”
Wow – just wow. You know, it’s a great business strategy to attack an entire group of your customers. NOT! If it’s okay with you Marissa, I’ll keep cashing those checks that come in every month for my “professional” photography. I hear you came to your job from the coding side of the business. Perhaps sucking down bags of Oreos and Jolt cola have left you brain damaged but I got news for you – there are plenty of professional photographers out there – whether you like it 0r recognize it is inconsequential. (And this is an open challenge to Marissa. Come on Photofocus and debate me on this subject. I seriously doubt that you have the stones.)
Beyond demeaning, mindlessly attacking and writing off a major subset of her customer base, Marisa also delivered a price increase without really telling us what she plans to do to justify that increase. I am okay with businesses raising prices. They need to make a profit. But there should be some new features for pros to go along with it. And so far, I don’t see any.
The whole change feels rushed, kludgey and poorly thought out. My guess is that they rushed to do this because both 500px and Google+ just rolled out major enhancements to their services.
UPDATE: I have challenged Marissa Mayer to come on the Photofocus podcast and let me ask her questions about her statement for ten minutes and in return I will give $1000 to her favorite charity. So far, she is still hiding in her bunker somewhere in Silicon Valley. If she finds the stones to come on the show I’ll be sure to let you know.
UPDATE #2: I hereby withdraw my offer to Mayer to come on my show. It’s clear she won’t and it’s clear that her PR machine is going to make sure that this event goes away as soon as possible. Mayer has backed off her statement about professional photographers – at least a little. While this Tweet was not posted to her general stream (something the PR hacks at Yahoo probably forbade) it did appear in her reply stream. She said…
“@karon @johndphoto I worded my answer terribly. I really apologize for what it sounded like outside of the context and notion of Flickr Pro.”
Now pay attention to the wording. She’s not saying she was wrong. She’s not saying there are indeed professional photographers. She IS saying she was taken out of context. If you read the entire statement she made during the announcement it’s clear she didn’t get taken out of context. It’s too bad she doesn’t have the courage to simply stand up and say what she should say; something like: “I was wrong. It was foolish of me to say there are no professional photographers. I value the professional photo community and my mistake was inexcusable. I hope you will forgive me for screwing up.”
Now THAT would be an apology. Either way, she at least back tracked a little so I am happy about that. I am also happy that this got so much attention because people like Mayer need to be held accountable when they slight an entire profession. Her PR people (as the PR people at Yahoo/Flickr are famous for doing) are circling the wagons, and have engaged the Yahoo fanboys to go out and defend Mayer. It’s too little too late for me. The rest of you decide as you see fit. I am loving 500px.com and am encouraging people to give that a try.